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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Satoko Fujii Tobira - Yamiyo Ni Karuso (Libra, 2015) ****½

By Stef 

One time, some seven years ago, I wrote the following on Satoko Fujii's music "I can guarantee, with certainty, that, somewhere in 2087, in a bar on the planet ZOrghk942, when some legally extraterrestrialized, yet interesting jazz afficionados are thinking back about their favorite music at the turn of the century on planet Earth, that Satoko Fujii will come up in the discussion. Many - and I mean MANY - of the musicians that we think of as good today, will unfortunately have totally disappeared into oblivion, disappeared into a black hole outside history, fortunately together with some other zillion musicians who occupy radio space. What makes Satoko Fujii great? The answer is simple : she is music, she loves music, she creates new languages in music. And I mean indeed the plural of the word. She has more ideas in a year than most musicians in a lifetime, and she manages to create with each CD and with each line-up something exceptional, out of the ordinary, unique and yet accessible, relatively speaking then". 

So why do I refer back to this? First, because my subjective statement is still valid (and still subjective), and second because she demonstrates this again with a new line-up, now with herself on piano, Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, Todd Nicholson on bass, and Takashi Itani on drums. 

As with each new band, this one also delivers the goods, not only because of the quality of the musicians, but because of the sound and approach that Fujii takes to bring yet another view on what her music can bring. 

On this album, not much seems prepared or composed. Fujii gives her band members lots of freedom, and Tamura kicks off with trumpet whispers, primeval sounds that generate reaction from the percussion, then the piano presents a great theme, somewhat triumphant and insistent in tone, sucking up the sound of the rest of the band, which like in a maelstrom gets attracted to the inevitable centre, and when this happens, silence emerges, and space is given to the drums, which changes the nature of the piece again, resulting in quiet piano, yet intense, somewhat changing timbre, eery, muted strings, clear sounds, inviting exploratory interaction with the rest of the band, chaotic, colliding, clashing, increasing in volume, relentlessly, the trumpet soaring, then the piano theme comes back again, forcing the rest of the band into its powerful drive, aligning forces in the same direction, hammering, pounding, then full stop and quiet chords and harmonies, subtle and gentle, opening space for the bass, followed by a more quiet moment by the quartet. 

Fujii is a big picture thinker, someone who likes broad sweeps of sounds, and strong contrasts between the violent and the quiet, the composed and the improvised, between chaos and discipline, yet always with careful attention for the little details and the emotional depth which bring the music so much further than just some theatrical dramatic effects. And of course not to forget the inherent beauty of the compositions. 



Martin Schray said...

You can listen to Nr. 2 "Run After a Shadow" here:

Stef said...

Thanks Martin! I'll add the link

Anonymous said...

Does Satoko Fujii personally send out her Libra CDs to people who buy them? (I always wonder when one arrives at my door with her return address hand-written on the package.)

Dan S. said...

She really is something special. I've been fortunate to see her in concert several times (most recently with Kaze), and they are all among the most memorable live performances I've attended.